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Chimneys Should Be Clean

Feb 10, 2004 | Contra Costa Times

Fires that ignited last weekend in Shawnee County flues or fireplaces spread to damage a house. Firefighters say the blazes illustrate why people with chimneys need to keep them clean, particularly in the winter.

The extra cold weather puts a lot more heat up that chimney flue," said Topeka firefighter Dennis Bowser, who also owns and operates Countryside Chimney Sweep. "If people didn't get their chimneys cleaned in the fall before they started firing them up, then excessive build-up of creosote can cause them to ignite."

Bowser and Topekans Joe Steinbock and Rich Reed who also work as "sweeps" to clean out chimneys agreed this week that almost all chimney fires are sparked by the build-up of creosote, a black residue of burning wood that sticks to chimney interiors.

Reed, said fireplaces should be inspected for creosote every time they have burned a cord of wood, which he described as being "about a big pickup load." Steinbock, the owner and operator of Steinbock's Ye Olde Chimney Sweep, said chimneys should be cleaned whenever creosote build-up accumulates to one-eighth of an inch.

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